Most female mammals and other animals of different classes incubate sperm fertilized eggs – a combination of proteins that generates life. Other proteins can destroy life, degenerate metabolic and communicative processes in cells and neurons (for example the protein plaque that occurs with Alzheimer’s disease). Being one of the most symbolic edible protein sources, chicken eggs also serve as incubation vessels for vaccines against various infectious diseases. In some of my recent work, chicken eggs are placeholders for proteins in a general way. Sculptural shapes made of mostly egg white, changing over time, stand-in for life-generating proteins or symbolize the creation of a hypothetical artwork. Specifically, they can also symbolize the potentiality of an artwork-to-be by hinting to the incubation of the fertilized egg in an ancestor – giving life to a future generation who may complete the artwork – or start building it in the first place.
MAKH, my grandmother from the mother’s side, had wanted to go to art school. While she was alive, we had never spoken about this – in fact we had never spoken much. Apparently she had not only painted, but had owned a photo camera in the 1920s, something not so common in those days. Her family ran a bakery in the town of Frohse in Saxony-Anhalt. In 1926, when she was still a teenager, her father suddenly disappeared, perhaps he had left the family for another woman. The reason for this was not discussed with other family members. Consequently, MAKH had to help run the family business and to work in the bakery. Her dreams scattered inbetween eggs, sugar and flour… A connection to my artworks with sugar [«One About Sugar»], related to my father’s family, becomes evident at this point: in 1926, when my great-grandfather disappeared, in another part of Germany, my father came into existence (Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Allen Ginsberg, Fidel Castro and Michel Foucault were born in the same year). Later on, MAKH gave birth to four daughters. IAAW, the oldest one, was born in 1933 (so were Yoko Ono, James Brown, and Susan Sontag, just to name a few). When IAAW, after the whole family survived WWII, expressed her own wish to go to art school, she was stopped by the family’s economic situation: being refugees, they had lost their homeland, work and money during the war. Instead, in 1949, she went to the «Housewife’s High School», and worked for five years as a nanny and kindergarten teacher until she married my father.
There is more to the chicken egg: egg white is a constituent part for egg tempera, a classical type of paint, the most commonly used variety of tempera. While tempera paint in general is still being used (almost anything is still being used to some degree, somewhere on this planet), egg tempera was a common painting technique in late antiquity and in medieval times, before the introduction of oil painting. Also, the easter egg is an object in which the notions of protein as a source of nourishment, ritualistic and religious traditions, and the production of artworks come together.
Only since 2012 have I consciously placed myself in sequence with my ancestors MAKH and IAAW, and have so far constructed these artworks with eggs: «The Unworks of MAKH» (2015), a floor-mounted sculpture on an octagonal metal stand, made from egg white sculpted with a hot air gun, then transforming over time. It refers to MAKH’s unrealized artworks and appears as something between chemical experiment, camping equipment and somehow misguided sculpture. «One of His Phantoms» (2016), a series of colour photographs made with boiled eggs with their shells cracked, egg white and even yolk protruding. The photographs were taken immediately after boiling and then again on the third day (this corresponds to the time between Jesus Christ’s supposed burial and resurrection). Each so-called «phantom» in these images refers to uncertain conceptions of places, entities, emotions, experiences lived by my ancestors, which have made them as they were, and which they traded down to me, by way of their behaviour or actions.